Paul Ryan moves away from controversial Medicare reform plan

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is moving away from his controversial plan to end traditional Medicare, putting forward a new proposal with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that would keep the federally funded program in place.

The plan, which Ryan and Wyden plan to unveil Thursday morning, would give Medicare beneficiaries a choice between today's Medicare and private health plans.  

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Ryan’s first Medicare plan would have converted the entire program into subsidies for seniors to buy private insurance. 

That proposal became a political lightning rod after it was released. Democrats argued that Republicans wanted to end Medicare and said they would use the issue as a weapon against the GOP in the 2012 elections. 

All of the Republican candidates running for the White House have had to stake out positions on Ryan's plan. Newt Gingrich, the front-runner for the GOP nomination, had to apologize to Ryan after calling his budget "right-wing social engineering."

The new approach from Ryan and Wyden has been championed by former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Alice Rivlin, who led the White House budget office under President Clinton.

Although the change is a significant departure from Ryan’s earlier proposal, Wyden’s involvement could also muddy Democrats’ campaign message of preserving Medicare against the threat of privatization.

“We want to demonstrate that there is an emerging consensus developing on how to preserve Medicare. We want to move that consensus forward,” Ryan told the Washington Post.

Ryan and Wyden are scheduled to release their proposal Thursday morning at an event hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

—This post has been updated.